Payments stamped out

Maersk Line has reduced aggregate facilitation payments globally by more than 40% in the first half of 2015 compared to a year ago. One of these places is Pakistan, where facilitation payments were eliminated in 2014 after a coordinated effort by the West Central Asia Liner Operations Cluster husbandry agents.

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Maersk Line has reduced aggregate facilitation payments globally by more than 40% in the first half of 2015 compared to a year ago – and the number of payments has also declined. In some countries, it has succeeded in stamping out facilitation payments altogether.

One of these places is Pakistan, where facilitation payments were eliminated in 2014 following a coordinated effort by the West Central Asia Liner Operations Cluster husbandry agents, who provide services to vessels and captains during port calls.

For decades, it had been common practice to give customs officials ‘gifts’ when they came on-board says Saman Amin, a Cluster Operations Manager based in Karachi. Last year, however, it was decided that Maersk Line was going to further accelerate the move towards a global zero facilitation policy.

“So, we came up with a strategy as to how we were going to implement this is in a way that wouldn’t be detrimental to our business,” says Amin.

Local husbandry agents briefed captains on the company’s policy and on who to contact if any issues arose ahead of port calls. They emphasised that all the documentation and paperwork required at local level should be in perfect order.

The policy was implemented gradually, starting with US-flagged vessels, and with captains tapering down the number of ‘gifts’ they gave out. While the captains were encouraged to start saying no to officials’ demands, it was up to them to decide how firm a stance was to be taken. At first, the change came as a surprise to officials, but when the captains and husbandry agents explained the company’s stance it was accepted.

“When this policy came out initially, I was sceptical about it as it was a big change, and any change is almost always met with resistance. But being Maersk Line - the largest carrier in Pakistan – our policies are respected and I am happy to say that the ‘zero facilitation’ policy has been carried out very successfully here,” says Amin.

Implementing the turnaround
Timothy Oliver, a senior master previously on the Safmarine Ngami, now on the Maersk Newbury, witnessed the change to zero facilitation payments in Pakistan.

“Before this, port authorities would require a mini supermarket sweep-type operation. I was advised before my first call that I would need additional trays of soft drinks, cigarettes – good quality, please, and definitely not counterfeit,” he says.

After the change, Captain Oliver says he followed company procedures, remained polite and stood his ground. On arrival, port officials were issued a copy of Maersk’s anti-corruption policy, and after the first couple of port calls, they stopped bothering to make the requests. Over the next year, Captain Oliver says he gave out nothing except the odd glass of mineral water or cup of tea or coffee. He credits husbandry responsible for helping to implement the turnaround.

“Our husbandry support was very helpful in backing me up and was always on board or very close by whenever any official appeared on board unexpectedly trying his luck,” he says.